Beatus of Liébana
Las Huelgas Apocalypse
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1910
And I saw, from the mouth of the dragon, and from the mouth of the beast, and from the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits go out in the manner of frogs. For these are the spirits of the demons that were causing the signs. And they advance to the kings of the entire earth, to gather them for battle on the great day of Almighty God. "Behold, I arrive like a thief. Blessed is he who is vigilant and who preserves his vestment, lest he walk naked and they see his disgrace." And he shall gather them together at a place which is called, in Hebrew, Armageddon. (Rev. 16:13–16)
According to Beatus, even though the dragon and the beast represent the devil, and the false prophet symbolizes false priests, they all make up the body of Satan. It has been suggested that the features of the false prophet represent him as a Jew; to his left are two of his followers.
The Apocalypse, or Book of Revelation, is not only the last Book of the New Testament, but its most difficult, puzzling, and terrifying. It provided challenges to medieval illustrators and was the source for a number of popular images, such as Christ in Majesty, the Adoration of the Lamb, and the Madonna of the Apocalypse and contributed to the widespread use of the Evangelists' symbols.
Selected images from Apocalypse Then: Medieval Illuminations from the Morgan, an exhibition held at the Morgan are presented here. The exhibition celebrates the completion of a facsimile of the Morgan's Las Huelgas Apocalypse—the latest dated (1220) and largest surviving manuscript of a Spanish tradition of illuminated commentaries on the Apocalypse by the monk Beatus of Liébana. The series of manuscripts constitutes Spain's most important contribution to medieval manuscript illumination.
The Las Huelgas Apocalypse contains three sections: the prefatory cycle, the Apocalypse, and the Book of Daniel.
In addition to forty-nine images from the Las Huelgas Apocalypse, six images from other manuscripts in the Morgan's collections, including the earliest Beatus painted by Maius and one by the Master of the Berry Apocalypse, are in this presentation.